I’ve always prized “connection” over “connectivity” at Coffeebar. Our cafes were expressly designed to bring people into contact with one another. I love helping the folks in our communities interact in intensely human ways over the small, daily pleasures of life.
During holidays past I always got a kick out of witnessing the celebratory gatherings that take place in our cafes. They’re like a mini, caffeinated version of the Heathrow Airport scenes that open and close the holiday movie, Love Actually: guests greeting and hugging each other. Guests greeting and hugging us. There was a time when guests were just as likely to come in for a hug as they were a cup of coffee.
That great holiday vibe--shopping in crowded, bustling stores, visiting friends, gathering with family, going to parties--it’s missing this year. And it’s easy to feel like the holidays are just one more thing that’s been stolen from us by this lousy disease, maybe even a parting slap in the face from 2020. The only good news is not having to hide grandma’s notorious green bean salad under your napkin.
If you’re longing for your normal holiday rituals, you’ve got lots of company. Maybe you’re even missing that awkward Secret Santa gift exchange at work or Uncle Marty’s cringeworthy jokes. Maybe you even wish you could make that panicked race to the mall on Christmas Eve after you realize you forgot someone important. Scrambling around with the other eleventh-hour Santas in stores that look like they’ve endured a really glittery Zombie Apocalypse...ahhh, good times.
But this abnormally quiet holiday makes me wonder if normal is actually what we’re missing. I have a feeling that a temporary cessation of Holiday Normal is truly a gift in disguise.
Because when you strip away the busyness and activity, the rushing and wrapping, (but not the baking or the hot cocoa...let’s be real) you’re left with the reason for it all in the first place.
We’ve had a collective “time out” from the unimportant things that drive us all to distraction. Not being able to connect in person with all the people in my life who matter to me has made me understand the amazing value of presence. Not being able to hug my mom for over a year has made me determined to do as much of that as I can in the future. I can’t even begin to imagine how good it’ll feel when we can once again show up and be there for one another, in person. Will any of us “graduates” of the COVID Class of 2020 ever again take for granted friendship, community, and time together? I doubt it.
When Love, Actually begins, Hugh Grant muses, “Whenever I get gloomy about the state of the world, I think about the arrivals gate at Heathrow Airport,” as we watch a montage of families, friends, and lovers embracing and reuniting. He continues, “When the planes hit the Twin Towers, as far as I know none of the phone calls from people on board were messages of hate or revenge...they were messages of love. If you look for it, I’ve got a sneaky feeling that love, actually, is all around.”
I think that’s exactly right. (Yeah, it’s probably the reason I choke up every time I watch that scene!) Faced with the prospect of losing everything, our lives included, there isn’t anything that’s more vital to our existence as human beings than love. This year made that idea more than a Hallmark cliche: 2020 turned Love into our marching orders for the future.
Is it easier to express your gratitude now than it was a year ago? Do you say “thank you” more often? Are you more willing to tell a friend you love them? (Not “loveya” but an actual, three-word “I love you”?) Do you find yourself taking the time to make a gesture of kindness that you might have put off, last year?
For a lot of us, the answer is a resounding yes. These are real gifts, and they can be gifts that keep on giving, long after Covid is in the rear view mirror.
Even when we’re not in the same spaces, love is all around us. Sure, we might have to make that holiday toast over Zoom, but the very decision to be apart this season is an act of real love.
Happy Holidays to you and yours from the Coffeebar family.
By Greg Buchheister